Whether you’re someone with a complete collection of silverware, or your eclectic mix of steel cutlery is overflowing from your drawer, there is a storage solution for you. Keeping your utensils in order will make your day to life feel so much more seamless, and your dinner parties feel put-together.
Utensil drawers are usually some of the smaller drawers in the kitchen, so if you’re someone with a large utensil collection, this can be a challenge. There are many in-drawer storage units that will allow you to organize them efficiently, but there are also many other options to distribute the load, so you can easily reach everything you need without having to sift through forks on top of spoons. If you want a complete guide to storage options for utensils, check out our other article on How to Organize Kitchen Utensils (20 Storage Options).
History of Eating Utensils
Silverware got its name because silver was often used to make flatware. Long after humans evolved past using primitive tools fashioned from bone and stones, they began making more sophisticated utensils from wood, shells, and eventually metal, including bronze, iron, and steel.
The exact origins of the spoon are murky, though archaeologists do have fossils that assert Neanderthal cultures may have fashioned crude, spoon-like instruments out of sea-shells and animal bones. The first remnant of spoons as we know them were found in the ruins of Ancient Egypt, and harken back to 1000 BC. These were ornate, made out of ivory or slate, and believed to be used primarily for ritualistic purposes. Typical Ancient Egypt, am I right? Since then, the spoon has played a major role in nearly every food culture in the world, in one way or another.
Throughout early history, the fork was used in the kitchen primarily, so the table was saved for hands, knives, and spoons until the 8th or 9th century, when smaller versions of the fork began to pop up on Persian dinner tables, as tools for eating. In the Western world in the 11th century, the fork was viewed with fear and hostility, probably due to associations with the Devil and his pitchfork (the word itself comes from the Latin word “furcus,” meaning pitchfork). It moved to the forefront of European culture in the 1500s, when Catherine de Medici brought the utensil from Byzantine to Italy and France. Being in the public eye more than almost any other personality at the time (think of her as the Kim Kardashian of the 16th century) she helped the fork spread in popularity, and become a trendy dining accessory.
the first fine flatware sets were personal items, owned and carried by their owners when dining out. The earliest sets date to the 14th century and were comprised of a fork, used for serving, with a matched set of knives for eating with the fingers. By the 17th century, these ornate sets were very popular and consisted of a fork, knife and spoon, and soon they were made to be folded to protect the blade and tines when traveling. These products were termed cutlery sets, from the Old French word “coutel,” meaning “knife.”
It was during the beginning years of the Industrial Revolution that houses began to keep great sets of flatware on hand. This was the Georgian period in England and dining reached theatrical levels. Courses were staged like acts in a play and utensils were created for specific types of food.
Just like with other dishes during this time, the style of these quality pieces began to change, as well, becoming more ornate, with decorations such as leaves and scrollwork. Flatware patterns emerged, such as the Old English pattern of the late 18th century, and inspiration was taken from interior design and architecture. Knives, most of which had a pistol-grip handle since the 17th century, soon acquired a straight handle, and were decorated to match the forks and spoons.
It is interesting to note that forks and spoons were made by silversmiths, while knives were made by cutlers. This is because the blade and handle were usually not made of the same material. Again, a non-alloyed metal like silver or gold was much too soft to use as a blade, and often wore down.
To make knives that lasted, steel sandwiched between sheets of less expensive iron, and later stainless steel, were used for the blade. Sometimes silver-plated steel was used for the blades, but the silver reacted with salt and many types of food, causing the blade to become damaged, or simply worn out from cleaning. More modest homes made do with less expensive materials, of course, such as pewter for forks and spoons, and knife handles of wood or bone.
It was during the beginning years of the Industrial Revolution that houses began to keep great sets of flatware on hand. This was the Georgian period in England when people began moving from small rural areas to big cities as new technologies and transportation took over. Taking place during the 18th and 19th centuries, it eventually spread from Europe to the United States. Due to the large growth of factories, this period really paved the way for flatware as we know it today. Tiffany was the most sought-after flatware maker in terms of exclusivity, and its designers created both patterns, such as the widely coveted Chrysanthemum, and new types of utensils.
Now, not all utensils are for eating. There are many cooking utensils, that take up a lot more space than forks and knives that can often be stacked pretty nicely. For all of your storage needs, let’s take a look at some genius solutions that will keep things organized and neat in your kitchen.
Ten Storage Solutions for Utensils
1. Custom utensil drawer
If you got the budget, consider getting a custom utensil drawer or drawers designed and installed. Check out that awesome drawer above. It’s not your usual small drawer with the universal utensil basket or dividers. Instead, you can design it specifically for your utensil needs and inventory.
2. Drawer Dividers (Universal)
Drawer organizers and dividers are the most basic and easy solution, that done’t take up any extra space, but make you cutlery drawer feel peaceful and organized in a flash. Having a drawer where forks, knives, spoons, and maybe even chopsticks are all aligned in together in their places makes it so much easier to access them. You will eventually have their spot so memorized that next time you reach into the drawer to grab a spoon, you won’t even have to look.
You can easily buy beautiful bamboo or wood organizers online, or fairly easily fashion one yourself: Start by cutting out two rectangles from some corrugated cardboard . An x-acto knife and sturdy ruler come in handy here. Cut both rectangles the height of the drawer (my rectangles were 6″ high, the same height as the drawer). For the width of each rectangle, one should be cut to the drawer’s depth and one cut to the drawers width. Then, to make them look pretty, start by cutting a rectangle sheet of contact paper about 1″ wider and 1″ taller than the cardboard rectangle. Notch out the corners with a scissors and fold the ends over to the other side of the rectangle.
Depending on if you have two separate sets of cutlery, silverware, and more day to day use, or just amalgamate all your cutlery into one, the organizer can hold both. If you have the former, try just getting two separate organizers, and placing the other one in a shelf in the dinging room, so everything has its proper place.
Pegboards are the ultimate cost effective storage solution for a kitchen that does not have plentiful cabinet space. They are so flexible: you can insert any type of hook you want, anywhere on the board – so even as you acquire new items, or decide you want to re-arrange, all it takes is removing the pegs and reinserting them where you want. You can get creative with the design and arrangement, grouping items by colour, size, category, or any other system of your choosing. They take the clunky big items out of the drawers, and distribute them into open space. Especially if there are items that you love and cherish, or have particularly beautiful design, the pegboard is a great place to showcase them. The kitchen pegboard is a terrific example of using storage ideas from other parts of the house (usually a garage or laundry room) in the kitchen. Julia Child popularized this utilitarian solution in her kitchen — famously creating an entire wall of French copper pots hung with neat care on a pegboard.
4. Ceramic Pots
Ceramic pots are another really beautiful way to add warmth to your kitchen, while keeping important kitchen utensils right on hand for when your egg is starting to burn and you need to flip it. Go for the biggest crocks you can find (like antique stoneware pickle crocks) and you’ll be able to store lots of tools in a single one. Instead of spacing out containers full of utensils here and there, contain your tools in one dedicated space. Not only will prevent you from dashing around the kitchen for each thing you need, but it can also double as cute countertop décor. In addition, if you ever get tired of it, you can always repurpose the ceramic or glass container as a vase!
5. Hang them on the side of the cabinet
There are many different products that can be installed on the side of your cabinet, with removable and moveable hooks that can store quite a lot of kitchen utensils. Just hang a bar or individual hooks on the side of your cabinets and you’ll have instant storage! These bars can be installed with a sticky tack, which holds surprisingly well, or if you’re looking to hold more weight, and you want it to be a more permanent installation, they can be screwed into the wall. The ones in the picture below even have a shelf on the top, which adds extra storage space. They can be installed anywhere, really; above the sink like pictured below, or on the side of a cabinet. I like the cabinet because it uses otherwise untouched space, and doesn’t add to the visual clutter of the room too much.
6. Magnetic bars for Knives
Magnetic knife bars are really a god send. While most people just use them for knives, a magnetic knife strip can hold, well, anything that’s magnetic! That includes things like like stainless steel spoons, ladles, whisks, and other utensils. Magnetic knife racks are easy to clean, easy to access, and easily accommodate all kinds of kitchen tools. Those who are right-handed may want to keep all the blades facing left, away from their more frequent hand motions.
The magnet most commonly used is the neodymium magnet, the strongest type of rare-earth magnet commercially available. Neodymium is rare, not because the magnet is actually rare, but because it’s made from rare-earth elements found on the periodic table, which in this case, is an alloy of neodymium, iron, and boron. The combination not only creates a heavy-duty, strong magnet, but one that’s permanent. Permanent magnets are materials that create their own persistent magnetic field. In other words, they are magnets that don’t lose their magnetic field — a good feature in something you’re trusting to hold up sharp, pointy cutlery. Plastic is the most common, as it’s affordable and comes in lots of colors, shapes, and designs. The trade-off, however, is that it tends to be less durable than wood or stainless steel varieties. But if you’re more concerned with having a specific style or just want to try out a magnetic knife holder in your kitchen, plastic is a good starting option. Stainless steel is another popular material, often found in professional kitchens. Not only is it affordable and long-lasting, it’s also very hygienic and easy to clean. Some designs even offer an extra parallel bar for added height, as well as removable hooks for hanging other kitchen tools. With its sleek, streamlined design, stainless steel magnetic knife holders are perfect for the modern kitchen.
7. Display Buffet
My mother always had a separate display buffet in the dinging room that housed all of her fine china and silverware, which she would pull out on special occasions, like Christmas dinner, and lay out on the table in a beautiful arrangement on a table cloth with flowers. I always loved the ceremony of this process. If you have inherited silverware from your family, or invested in it yourself, getting a separate buffet for it can be the best way to ensure it stays safe, and it’s easy to access when you need it.
When you have beautiful formal dishware, you want to show it off. Elegant plates and serving vessels become an integral element of the decor—if styled correctly—whether hung on the wall in full view of the dining table or relegated to a china hutch in the kitchen. See how expert design professionals created beautiful spaces to display their clients’ curated china and ceramics collections. Traditionally, larger items like plates are displayed front and centre, but you can get creative with it, and feature silverware as well.
8. Suspended Utensil Holder
if you are especially short on counter space, consider trying a suspended utensil holder. You can mount a square or rounded container on the wall, and fit whatever kind of utensil you want in there. This system is compatible with the pegboard, or the racks mentioned earlier. However, you don’t need either to make it possible. The container can be attached directly to the wall, with a screw or a nail, or you can even install a floating shelf to place them on. I love having them independently secured, so that when you go to take something out, the whole container doesn’t move with you, forcing you to use two hands to secure it while pulling out your tongs. You want to be able to quickly and swiftly pull out the item you need, maybe while also holding a pot of boiling pasta water.
9. Portable Kitchen Island
If your kitchen doesn’t already have an island, this option will really add counter space and storage space to your room. Kitchen carts make great versatile storage for more than just your kitchen. Since they’re available in many different styles and sizes, mobile carts can move from room to room when you need them, or stored away when you don’t. In addition to adding storage space, they can also add valuable surface space for prepping meals, dining or other tasks.
Kitchen islands are standalone pieces of furniture designed to look like custom, built-in cabinets. They often have drawers and cabinets for storage and a countertop surface for prep work. Both standard kitchen carts and kitchen island carts can act as bonus prep space. The difference is that kitchen islands are typically larger and can look like permanent fixtures in your kitchen, while standard kitchen carts are typically easier to move as needed. Kitchen islands may be able to accommodate seating, and while always moveable, they may or may not come with attached wheels. They often have drawers, which can be used to store utensils. Instead of stashing pans and kitchen accessories in hard-to-reach, easy-to-forget places, a kitchen island provides readily accessible drawers and cabinets within arm’s reach. My mobile island has two drawers and two cabinets with shelves, and is spacious enough to hold my silverware, baking tools, cake pans, cooling racks, pots and pans, mixing bowls and more. I’m still shocked by just how much I can fit into it. Plus, thanks to cabinets that snap shut, everything can be hidden away in its place, resulting in a more clutter-free kitchen space.
The extra counter space that my kitchen island provides has been a godsend, but the cart has become more of a jack-of-all-trades piece of furniture — the focal point for routine life activities. When I cook or bake, the top of the island functions as a workstation for everything from measuring out ingredients to scooping dough to mixing glazes. Setting a few counter stools around the island transforms it into a makeshift breakfast nook or dining “table,” and it becomes a serving and gathering area when I have guests over. Best of all, the mobile island boasts a clean aesthetic that blends effortlessly into my home, no matter how I’m using it — it’s a statement piece I’m proud to showcase.
Kitchen islands are a great feature in kitchens, but they can also serve as a sideboard in an entryway or in a living room.
10. Utensil Caddy
Some restaurants have caddy’s in the centre of their tables that store the utensils for diners. If you’ve ever been to a barbecue joint, you know what I’m talking about. These are great because they allow you to take large amounts of cutlery between indoors and outdoors. If you live in a warm climate, or if its your summer, eating outdoors is such a lovely way to spend the evening. Being able to effectively carry all the cutlery outside, without fumbling and dropping forks on the floor only to have to clean them again, is really a huge plus. Your diner party guests will thank you, as well as your hands.
11. Utensil bar
If you don’t have upper cabinets, you could rig up a long bar or several bars for hanging utensils and pots as pictured above. Talk about easy access.
Well, we hate to say it, but sometimes you just have too much stuff. There are endless ways to create new solutions to store your things, but at the end of the day, sometimes it will really benefit you to just ditch some old things that you really don’t use, and declutter your kitchen. Certain things add up over the course of a lifetime spent cooking: mixing bowls, roasting trays, serving platters, salad tossers. Think about how many of each you really need, and keep the best quality/most useful of the bunch. Donate or toss the ones that don’t make the cut. When it comes to china or cutlery, do you really need two 12-person sets? For the three times a year your fancy china comes out to play, it’s probably not worth the storage space. A simple white set of dishes works for every occasion, or just choose the set you like best, and get rid of the other(s). That being said, if you do use your cutlery collections, and want to keep them, consider all of our above suggestions before pulling the plug on your grandmother’s silverware.
If you are a person who loves collecting old silverware, has inherited a collection from older generations, or just can never seem to get rid of the gradually growing pile in your drawer, these solutions should help you add space to store them all, while also organizing them and keeping them neat and in good condition. There is a surprising amount of wear and tear that can happen to utensils just from being stored in an overcrowded drawer. So, if you care about your utensils, and want them to make a good impression on your guests, get started organizing!